Liu Kang is all about speed and keeping your opponent on the defensive. His game plan is to hit the opponent one time and then force them to guess between and overhead and low for the rest of the match (unless they guess right). Depending on your variant of choice, he has other options available as well, but all three variations give Liu Kang the ability to apply significant pressure to his opponents. He's a great character for beginners and can be played well by veteran players.

Notation Key

PlayStation/Xbox
1 - Square/X
2 - Triangle/Y
3 - X/A
4 - Circle/B

Bicycle Kick
Notation: Forward, Back, Forward+4
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

The main use for the Bicycle Kick is to end combos with significant advantage and leaving the opponent standing. Liu Kang's combos are long enough to make it fairly easy to cancel into the Bicycle Kick once you confirm the combo hits. After you end a combo with the Bicycle Kick you have enough advantage to start an overhead/low mix-up to force your opponent into guessing how they're supposed to block. If your combo is blocked, do not cancel into the Bicycle Kick as it's not safe when blocked. The enhanced version (Bicycle Flurry) inflicts more damage, lasts longer and has armor.

Flying Dragon Kick
Notation: Back, Forward+2
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

End combos with the Flying Dragon Kick if you're going for damage instead of a setup. It covers a lot of ground and travels very fast, but if the opponent blocks it Liu Kang can be punished. The speed and range of the Flying Dragon Kick allow Liu Kang to punish certain attacks that would normally be difficult to punish. Attacks that are generally not safe but push Liu Kang back far enough to be out of reach of his normal attacks. In many cases the Flying Dragon Kick can punish opponents in this situation. The enhanced version travels even further and has armor.

Dragon's Roar
Notation: Down, Back+2
Enhanced: Yes, with armor.

Dragon's Roar is safe if the opponent blocks and it has deceptive range. You can land this attack from roughly mid-screen. It can definitely catch an opponent off-guard, but it doesn't lead to any additional damage. If the opponent doesn't have any meter, use this attack to score a knockdown, then run up and apply pressure as the opponent attempts to get off the ground. This works especially well in the corner, but can work in open space if you can get to the opponent fast enough. The enhanced version also has armor making it one of Liu Kang's best options after he's knocked down.

For The Shaolin (X-Ray)

Liu Kang's X-Ray doesn't cover a lot of distance but it's relatively easy to combo into. You can use something as simple as the Hidden Lotus combo (1,1) and go right into the X-Ray for an easy 35 percent damage combo. This also makes it easy to punish opponents with the X-Ray. If you block any attack that can be punished by Liu Kang's Strong Fist (1), you can go right into the Hidden Lotus combo and end with the X-Ray for good damage.

Basic Strategy

While Liu Kang's various fighting styles offer him a variety of play styles, all three have access to the Bicycle Kick or some variation of it. Therefore you go-to strategy for all three variants should be to land a combo and end it with the Bicycle Kick in order to leave the opponent standing and allow you to start another mix-up. Showdown (Forward+4,4) should be your bread and butter combo. It starts with a fast low attack and if it hits you can end with the Bicycle Kick. If it's blocked you can transition right into the Launching Fury combo (Forward+4,4,3) to stay safe from punishment.

Once you connect the Bicycle Kick you want to go for a low or an overhead. The low should be the Showdown combo again, but you have some options when it comes to the overhead. Ideally you want to hit the opponent with the Dragon Seeks Path combo (1,1,3), but the first two attacks can be interrupted by a crouching jab if the opponent is skilled. You can use the Tiger Backfist (Back+2) overhead, but if the opponent guesses right and blocks it, Liu Kang is not safe. You can also go with a throw to further mix things up. The best course of action is to use the Showdown combo enough to make your opponent block low after a Bicycle Kick. If they're scared enough you can land either overhead option.

Dualist Variant

The Dualist variant changes Liu Kang's fireballs and gives him some unique setup options. You can switch between the Light Metamorphosis and Dark Metamorphosis with Down, Down+1. By default you start in the Light Metamorphosis stance which has large fireballs that act like normal projectiles. You can shot a Solar Flare (Back, Forward+1) that hits high and can be ducked under, or a Low Solar Flare (Back, Forward+3) which hits low. You can also use the Air Solar Flare (Back, Forward+1 in the air) as an aerial attack.

Liu Kang also has the Yin (Down, Back+3) ability which allows him to slowly regain health by holding 3 when you execute the technique. Liu Kang can't block while doing this, but you can cancel it by releasing 3 or pressing Forward, Forward or Back, Back. If you release 3 you will get additional health replenished, but if you cancel it you will be able to block faster.

In the Dark Metamorphosis stance Liu Kang's fireballs do not directly inflict damage. Soul Sphere (Back, Forward+1) travels high, Low Soul Sphere (Back, Forward+3) travels low and Air Soul Sphere (Back, Forward+1 in the air) can be done in the air. You can use Stop Sphere (Forward, Down, Back+1) to stop these projectiles. After a short time the stopped projectile will explode, inflicting damage to the opponent if they're nearby. Like Yin in the Light Metamorphosis stance, Liu Kang can use Yang (Down, Back+3) in Dark Metamorphosis stance. Holding 3 charges up the Spheres so they explode much faster after you stop them.

The basic strategy of this variant is to land a knockdown by ending combos with the Flying Dragon Kick or Dragon's Roar so you can setup your Spheres and then attack the opponent again with the Sphere to protect you. However, this goes against Liu Kang's general strategy of keeping the opponent on their feet with the Bicycle Kick. If you want to play a more setup-heavy Liu Kang, this is the variant for you.

Flame Fist Variant

The Flame Fist variant is essentially classic Liu Kang. He has a normal Fireball (Back, Forward+1), Low Fireball (Back, Forward+3) and Air Fireball (Back, Forward+1 in the air). The Bicycle Kick is replaced by the Windmill Punch (Forward, Back, Forward+4) but is essentially the same in terms of how you should use it. He also has the Dragon Parry (Down, Back+3) which counters high and mid attacks and the Shaolin Flame (Down, Down+1) which lights Liu Kang's fists on fire and increases his damage for a short time.

This is traditional Liu Kang and the variant you should choose if you just want to play an aggressive style using the Windmill Punch to end combos and going for an overhead/low mix-up. The Dragon Parry just helps to keep Liu Kang on the offensive by shutting down an opponent who tries to attack at the wrong time, and the Shaolin Flame just gives Liu Kang more damage to end the match faster. He also gains two new combos that are just extensions of his combos in other variations.

Dragon's Fire Variant

If the Flame Fist is Liu Kang's traditional style, Dragon's Fire is a beefed up version of that. Liu Kang's fireballs execute slower and can be delayed and even canceled with Forward, Forward or Back, Back. His The enhanced version of his Bicycle Kick launches the opponent into the air so Liu Kang can follow with a juggle for additional damage, and the Flying Dragon Kick is replaced with the Double Dragon Kick. This new special move hits twice and can be enhanced to turn into a Bicycle Kick. It can even be enhanced a second time to launch the opponent into the air for a juggle.

The damage output of the Double Dragon Kick is the same as the normal Bicycle Kick. The advantage is that it executes faster and travels farther at the cost of using a meter (or two meters if you want the launch at the end). If you don't need the extra speed or range, stick to the normal Bicycle Kick and save your meter for the launcher at the end.

Sample Combos

18 percent - Forward+4,4, Bicycle Kick (standing reset)
22 percent - 1,1,3, Forward+4,4, Bicycle Kick (standing reset)
29 percent - 1,1,3, Back+3,4, Bicycle Kick, Down+2

Fatalities

Sore Throat - Down, Down, Back, Forward, Forward (Close)
Splitter - Back, Forward, Down, Up (Close)

Brutalities

Hot Head - Use at least three stage interactions during the match, then kill the opponent by hitting them in the head with an Air Fireball (Back, Forward+1 in the air).

For more on Mortal Kombat X check out Prima's free guide and learn how to play Jaqui Briggs or Goro!